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On Saturday night, The Tragically Hip played their final show in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario.
This also happens to be my hometown.
Thinking back to weaving through the swarms of revellers in Springer Market Square, arriving to “Welcome Home” signs plastered against the K-Rock Centre, passing a massive Canadian flag around the stadium and belting out every word in their 30-song set along with (what really felt like) 7,000 of our closest friends—it’s still as overwhelming and poignant as it was on Saturday night.
If there was ever a moment in my life that I’ve felt really, truly Canadian—and really, truly home—that was it.
These are the feelings The Tragically Hip and their formidable frontman Gord Downie have gifted us over the span of their 30-year career. And for that, we’re eternally grateful. While the night was emotional from start to finish, this final show was undoubtedly a celebration of their heroism and profound contribution to Canadian music, which we’ll continue to relive through their 13 albums and every memory that came with them.
Here are five things I’ll always remember about The Hip’s final show in our hometown.
In my nearly three decades of calling Kingston home, I’ve never seen the city look the way it did on Saturday night. In fact, I’ll wager a bet that the city has never looked the way it did on Saturday night. Along with the closed-off, shoulder-to-shoulder downtown streets, every bar, restaurant, corner and balcony was spilling over with people and loud blasts of The Hip’s classic anthems. Of course, once the show ended, the party continued.
— CTV News (@CTVNews) August 21, 2016
You’d be hard-pressed to log into social media and not see that now-historic photo of Prime Minister Trudeau and Gord Downie in an emotional embrace. Equally as noteworthy as Trudeau’s attendance was Downie’s firm endorsement of our country’s leader, halfway through the set. Alone on stage, a drenched Downie thanked the Prime Minister for coming and gave one of the most influential votes of confidence a politician could receive at this point in Canadian history. “We’re in good hands, folks. Real good hands,” Downie said slowly, to roars from the crowd. “He cares about the people up North. What’s going on up there ain’t good. But we’re gonna get it fixed – and we got the guy to do it.”
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) August 21, 2016
A few songs into the show (in between songs—the only time in which you could even attempt to hear another human), I turned to ask my friend if he thought the sound was at its best, because I could barely hear Gord. I quickly realized the sound was just fine, and the sometimes muffled vocals were a result of 7,000 people screaming every syllable of every song in unison.
— The Tragically Hip (@thehipdotcom) August 21, 2016
Speaking of those 7,000 concertgoers—I was blown away at the incredible range of Hip fans pouring into the K-Rock Centre. Getting tickets to this show was clearly no easy feat; therefore it’s safe to say that every person present wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I watched toddlers bobbing from their parent’s arms, teenagers chanting Man Machine Poem lyrics and longtime devotees wiping away tears during “Scared”—a clear representation of the iconic band’s reach.
— CP24 (@CP24) August 20, 2016
I’m not sure I’ll witness the same kind of on-stage comradery and affection like I did on Saturday night, ever again. In between songs, before their three encores and during that momentous final bow, Gordie, Rob, Johnny, Paul and Gord hugged, kissed, pressed forehead-to-forehead and laughed. A fan’s love for The Hip is one of the greatest loves of a lifetime, but their love for each other is visibly immeasurable.
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) August 22, 2016
There will never be another Gord Downie. From his flashy suit changes to subtle dance moves and poses, the mid-sized stadium and huge screens allowed us countless opportunities to feel like we were locking eyes with the leading man. He was focused, grateful and also wanting to remember everything about this last show—which was demonstrated when he mimed taking pictures of the audience. He was perfect, and despite seeing him live dozens of times before, that night’s Gord will be the Gord I’ll always remember.
“Thank you for that,” said Downie, before leaving the stage one last time. We thank you, Gord, and the rest of The Hip, for lifelong memories and for helping us define home.